Miracle At Midnight – Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were On Disney+

It’s kind of a crazy time in the world right now. Almost no one alive today can remember the last time the word “pandemic” was applicable to our everyday lives.

With so many people at home right now, I know everyone is looking for something fresh to do with their time. And many parents are looking for ways to educate their children and keep them engaged.

Let me tell you about a lesser-known gem available on Disney+.

Miracle At Midnight

miracle at midnight

A made-for-TV movie from the 90s that tells the incredibly inspiring story of how the Danes saved over 90% of their Jewish population from the Holocaust during WWII.

Yes, you read that correctly. Over 90% of the Danish Jewish population was saved during WWII thanks to the incredible efforts of the Danish people.

This happened over 80 years ago and it still feels like good news.

And it happened in the course of just a few weeks.

germans plotting

The year is 1943, and the German occupying government is planning to crack down hard upon the Jews. They will round up over 7,000+ Jews on the night of Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year). They will stamp out the Jews in Denmark as they have so many other countries in Europe.

It is a brilliant plan…a plan destined to fail.

Word reaches the Danish people, and an act of God takes place over the next several days.

It’s an incredible story, the central characters created to tell this story are Dr. Karl Koster and his wife Doris (Mia Farrow), teenage son Henrik, and daughter Else.

Through the eyes of Dr. Koster we understand the incredible efforts and coordination that took place among every member of the Danish population to save their Jewish friends and neighbors. People of all walks of life came together and provided hiding places, money, transportation, and information to protect the lives of Danish Jews.

Through the eyes of Henrik we experience the young Danish Resistance and their fearlessness in facing down the evil the Nazis presented.

Through the eyes of Doris we feel the fear and strength of a woman who has to walk the line of caring for her neighbors while carrying the weight of protecting her family as well.

Through the eyes of Else we understand what it must be to be a child growing up in a terrifying time.

It’s inspiring. It’s beautiful. It’s encouraging.

The same historical event is the setting for the classic book by Lois Lowry Number The Stars where a young Danish girl and her family save their Jewish neighbors. I highly recommend the book as well.

number the stars

So many countries failed to protect the Jews. We find stand-out heroes in every nation who stood up and said “No” when everyone else said nothing. But to see an entire country of people who not only worked together but were so completely successful is something else entirely. What might have happened if other nations had done the same thing?

Thousands upon thousands of people exist in the world today because those 7000+ Danish Jews were saved. They are a living testimony to the righteous courage of the Danes and their efforts to protect their fellow human beings. Not only were most of the Jews saved, but only 500 Jews were caught by the Nazis and taken to a ghetto. Out of those only 51 died.

When the Jews returned to Denmark after the war had ended the Jews found that their friends and neighbors had also protected their homes and businesses for them so they would have something to return to.

To quote a line from the history article I have included in the links, historian Leni Yahil said the Danish Jews were protected by

 “a living wall raised by the Danish people in the course of one night.”

This is life as it should be. This is brotherhood. This is God’s heart. And it is something we can all learn from today, whatever our circumstances or difficulties are.

War is plague just as coronavirus is a plague. Hatred is a plague, and hatred and evil killed millions of people during WWII. It’s important to recognize the heroes and find stories where good men and women decided that doing nothing was not an option.

We are not fighting Nazis today. That word gets thrown around a lot in the media and by ignorant people who have no idea what Nazis actually were. This movie tells the true story of Nazis, and the people who opposed them. And it does it well.

To sum up, I’ll quote a beautiful speech from the movie that is delivered by Georg Duckwitz. He truly was an ally in this situation and shared information with Danish people that allowed them to outwit the Germans and save the Jews.

werner best

At the end of the movie when asked why he, a German, did what he did, Duckwitz replies with this beautiful speech that we can all learn from.

I came to this country (Denmark) as a young man, ambitious, a little homesick as young men are, and the Danes welcomed me. And some of them were Jews. It’s easy to persecute the nameless and the faceless, but these people are not faceless to me. I could have walked away…but…you know, a man must live with himself a long time. And if he can do something to ease a little of the terrible ache in this world…he must. I love Denmark. It’s my home now, and when your home is on fire you want to save it. That’s all it was. My home was on fire. Miracle At Midnight

In these days where we feel like the world is upside down and we do not know what to expect, we can learn so much from the beautiful Danish people and how they responded to their time of crisis.

*Parental warning, this movie contains shooting, at few on-screen deaths, implied suicides (a shadow of a hanging man’s legs is shown on the wall), and blood from injuries. Characters are shown being terrified and in danger. A young man and woman lie down in the woods (fully clothed) and pretend to be making out to distract German soldiers. Some characters are separated. 

This movie can spur on so many lessons. If you are looking for a neat way to educate and engage your children, I highly recommend this movie. I will include a few links to get you started.

This movie is a gem about a story that I hope none of us ever forget.

Check it out on Disney+ today!

And here are few resources to get you started!

Number The Stars on Amazon by Lois Lowry!

A Rescuer in Copenhagen Georg Duckwitz

Miracle At Midnight on Disney+

The Young Underground Series by Robert Elmer

Why 90% of Danish Jews Survived the Holocaust on history.com

Rosh Hashanah at museumofthebible.org

 

 

 

Tron : Uprising – Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were On Disney+

The original Tron made a splash in the film world in 1982 for a good reason. It was a pretty revolutionary concept and introduced a new type of “world-building” that the population was still wrapping their minds around.

tron original

In terms of a great story and character depth itself? Ehh…Bruce Boxleitner’s Alan Bradley/Tron performance stole the show from Jeff Bridges’ Kevin Flynn/Clu. Kevin Flynn was not as solid of a character as I had expected, but then again he was only the protagonist while Tron was clearly the hero.

This classic was given a sequel in 2010 with Tron: LegacyA decent movie in terms of motivation and storytelling. The most compelling aspect to me was the idea of Sam Flynn being able to bring Quorra (a program from The Grid) back into the real world with him where she became as human as he was.

tron legacy

Tron and the Tron: Legacy sequel fully deserve their place in the sci-fi hall of fame. But the strongest member of the Tron family and storyline is not as well known, nor has it gotten the amount of credit it deserves. It was only given one season, but the world needs to know that this story exists.

*slight spoiler warning ahead

beck

Meet Tron: Uprising

Unlike the movies that start in the real world and insert real-world characters into The Grid, this story takes place entirely in The Grid and is told from the perspective of a program named Beck (voiced by Elijah Wood). He works as a mechanic and does not plan on becoming a vigilante or freedom fighter…until one of his best friends is derezzed unfairly by someone representing Clu’s evil establishment.

And a hero is born.

Tron is a legend, but no one has heard from him in years. They think he’s likely dead and gone due to the level of suffocating tyranny and control they live under. No Users have been seen or heard of in ages either.

Beck is on his own…or is he?

Over the course of just 18 episodes, we experience a deeply engaging and complex story where we watch Beck go from just another program to a symbol of hope and change on The Grid.

And he is mentored by none other than Tron himself, voiced by the one and only Bruce Boxleitner.

tron uprising

The voice pairing alone would have been a treat. Elijah Wood brings such a fresh vulnerability and openheartedness to the character of Beck, and Boxleitner gives great gravity and generousness to the mentor role Tron plays in this story. The development of Beck from raw recruit to a skilled warrior, as well as his and Tron’s rapport is stunning character work.

Other characters add spice and layers of complication. Fellow mechanics such as Mara (voiced by Mandy Moore) or Beck’s boss Able (Reginald VelJohnson) create interesting sounding boards for the character who struggles to balance his day job with his night work.

The good characters are balanced out with some strong villains, and a few…undecided characters.

The questions raised in this series are entirely relatable and applicable. Right and wrong, control vs freedom, why do we believe what we believe, do you fight for what you believe? Etc.

beck 2

The stakes are high, you feel the struggle of these characters so deeply and are rooting for their triumph. The villains are threatening and there are permanent consequences to many of the choices made by characters in this series. The finale was something special.

I had not seen either of the Tron movies when I saw this series for the first time. I was just on Netflix and looking for something interesting to watch. Normally I would be turned off by this type of animation, it’s not my favorite. The color palette, soundtrack, and look the whole show is so outside of my comfort zone.

But I gave it a shot, and then I couldn’t stop watching it. The fact that this show didn’t look like something I would love and I found out that totally loved it should be even higher praise for this beautiful piece of storytelling.

*Parental warning – this is an intense series. Characters are derezzed (killed), tortured, imprisoned, put through gladiator type games, betrayed, and lose people close to them. it is not a light-hearted series, but it is one of purpose and depth.

I felt more watching these 18 episodes than I do in many TV shows, and definitely, more than I felt watching the Tron movies. It is a crying shame that this series did not get a second season. So many worthless shows go on forever and then gems like this one are stopped at just one season.

My hope would be that more people discover it on Disney+ and ask for a new season. After all, that’s the gift of only using actors’ voices, it doesn’t matter if they have aged.  This show deserves to have more of the story told, and the story could easily be picked up where it was left in the season finale.

the grid

Check out Tron: Uprising today on Disney+ and please! If you love it, make some noise about it, it deserves a second chance!

Pixar Spark Shorts – “Smash and Grab” Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were on Disney+

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

 

The Chosen

The Chosen. A TV series that shows the life of Jesus, told through the stories of those who knew Him best. The largest crowdfunded media project of all time.  A show about Jesus paid for by people who love Jesus. I’m not going to share all of the technical details, instead, I’m going to tell […]

The Chosen.

A TV series that shows the life of Jesus, told through the stories of those who knew Him best.

The largest crowdfunded media project of all time. 

A show about Jesus paid for by people who love Jesus.

I’m not going to share all of the technical details, instead, I’m going to tell you a piece of my story and share my heart.

This article is for anyone who will read it, regardless of your religious background or your beliefs about God. I’m just a person, like you, and this a conversation from my heart to yours.

I have known God is real my entire life. My parents are believers, and I was raised in a home where Jesus was a regular part of the conversation.

My mama read me Bible stories and I watched Bible stories onscreen.

But it goes deeper than that. God called me to Himself. He chose me. 

Many children who are now adults have many of the same ingredients to their origin story that I do, and yet they have never met God for themselves. Nor do they realize the value of who they were created to be.

To them, Jesus was just another topic around the dinner table, or maybe He is merely their parent’s “thing”. Here’s a common one, “He was a good man and teacher with good ideas but nothing more“. Calling Him something as wild as the Son of God on earth is like something out of a fantasy story, right?

I beg to differ. My life is not built on a fantasy, in fact, it has been quite the opposite. My life has been just as grounded and down-to-earth as anyone else’s.

I’m mature enough now to honestly tell you this, “I have a lot to learn.”

But there is one thing I am confident of in this crazy world of unknowns.

God is real Person, He is GOOD, and He called me.

How did God call me and how do I know it was Him?

God is the Creator of the Universe, He knows all things, He knows all people because He created all people.

He speaks your language before you do. Each person has a unique collection of interests and dreams that set them apart from others. Where do those things come from? From a Creator, Someone Who lovingly made you an individual.

He has a reason for you being here, a special purpose that only you can fulfill.He would choose us all if we would take Him up on His offer. We all have the opportunity to become one of the chosen.Some of us sa

Because I am a storyteller, God called me to Himself with the stories of the Bible. God touched my artistic soul with my love for the beauty of the world that I felt came from somewhere deeper. He used my strong memory and intuition to communicate things to me that some would say I was too young to understand, but I did.

At five years old I asked Jesus into my heart. And the joy I experienced on that day is something unearthly, my friends. It was like a shot of liquid excitement to the soul, so bubbling and fierce it almost hur

I have never experienced anything like that anywhere else. It was more real, more wonderful, and more powerful than anything we humans can create on our own.

Life in a fallen world happens, we grow and we are faced with pain, suffering, and broken people. Doubt enters the picture and creates room for lies that hide the truth of God’s love.

And tragically, a loving and kind Father becomes Falsely labeled as an angry and harsh judge Who barely tolerates our existence.

During my walk with the Lord for the past 19 years, I have fallen prey to many of the lies that made me doubt His love.

God as a “Loving Father” seemed more like a phrase used to sell Christian calendars rather than what God actually was.

I felt that He was far away, harsh, and constantly disappointed with me. I was really good at failing as a Christian/human, I must be a shame to Him. I didn’t believe I was going to hell, but I didn’t really think God liked me that much. Nor did I feel that I could trust Him with the deep needs and desires of my heart and life.

It's hard to live with joy and gusto when that's how you view your Heavenly Father. We live out of what we believe, so if you believe yourself to be unloved and a source of shame, guess how you live_ (1)

You live frightened, confused, angry, sad, judgmental, and empty. That’s how I felt so much of the time. And so have so many others.

This is not the entire summary of my walk with Him during those darker years, He still reached me where I would dare to open up to Him. But it was a slow, sometimes really painful process.

My heart was longing for more.

The things I had experienced as a child, the things God had used to call me to His heart were still in there, but they were buried. I had a deep heart cry, a question that I carried with me.

Is there more? God, are you more???

The Chosen series Season 1 gently inserts us into the lives of normal, broken people living in first-century Judea.

A rascally fisherman who has a wonderful wife and a good brother...who's up to his neck in debts and life or death troubles.

God feels distant and unreachable, while his problems are threatening to tear his life away from him. Does God really care about his needs, or has he already failed so badly that God will never acknowledge him again?

A broken and battered woman who has been mistreated, abused, and is thrown around by the demons who possess her...the darkness is suffocating her and she has lost her hope.

She once was loved, she once believed, but she has fallen so far, had so much taken from her. The words of prophecy regarding a Savior her father taught her seem like useless garbage in the face of her constant torment.

An autistic tax collector who is brilliant in his work...but a despised outcast from his fellow Jews.

He’s alone in his own little world where no one understands him, nor do they care. He’s considered a traitor to his own people, so why would God acknowledge him?

A highly respected and noble Pharisee who has spent his life learning and teaching God's law...and yet he continues to carry the question, _God, are you more__

Everyone around him seems content to carry on with the traditions they have been taught for generations, he desires to respect what he knows but he keeps hoping against hope that God is more.

As if life isn’t hard enough, Rome’s conquering presence is all around them, fear is a regular part of every character’s daily reality.

Quietly, a stranger named enters their world. He looks like them. He is from their country. He is a craftsman. He is a son. He is a brother. He is a friend. His name is Jesus.

And their lives are suddenly turned upside down.

You’d think that people who lived 2,000 years ago would have nothing in common with those of us living in this futuristic world of the 21st century. While the show creators do an excellent job of painting the first-century world with great detail and richness, the core elements of the story and characters confirm this: these people are just like you and me, and they are asking the same questions we ask today.

“Am I going to be okay?”

“How do I get through tomorrow?”

“How do I take care of myself and my family?”

“Does God actually care about me and my needs?”

“Am I worthless? Should I just end it and be done?”

“Is this truly all there is? I feel like there should be more.”

Israel was the nation of God’s chosen people. They had known God for literally thousands of years. Their story was God’s story, His miracles and words are a part of their very DNA and culture. You would think out of everyone on planet earth THESE people would have it figured out! Much like the Church today, you would think these people would understand God!

One glance at these characters in their various walks of life testifies for the opposite.

Simon (the fisherman) fears God’s judgment and believes in His disinterest.

Mary (the broken woman) feels forgotten and unloved by God. She’s too unworthy to be saved.

Matthew (the tax collector) struggles with anything he cannot explain, but this Jesus keeps doing the inexplicable. Matthew is fascinated, but he expects to be rejected by Jesus as he is by all Jews.

Nicodemus (the Pharisee) wonders if he is just an old fool for wanting God to be more. He also fears what his peers will say about him for seeking beyond what they already know.

Does any of this sound familiar? Whether you are a Christian or not, this is familiar to the human struggle with questions about God and our relation to Him.

I myself have asked many of these same questions, even though I have known God is real my whole life. Even though I met Him and His true heart at age 5, I still had/have questions.

And the older I got the more I became desperate for answers, much like The Chosen characters are at various levels of desperation when we step into their lives onscreen. 

Enter Jesus.

Let me show you something really special from Episode 4, The Rock On Which It Is Built. 

Andrew, brother of Simon the fisherman, comes to him in a flurry of excitement. He’s seen Jesus. “It’s Him, it’s the Messiah. The Lamb of God.”

“I don’t need a Lamb, I need fish.” is Simon’s reply. (The Chosen, Episode 4 – The Rock On Which It Is Built)

Simon is out of options, he’s so in debt to the tax collectors that if he cannot pay an exorbitant amount by the next day he will be taken to prison, or be killed. His family will likely fall into ruin without him. It’s an awful, awful circumstance to be trapped in. He’s desperate, and God seems to be ignoring him, and he believes he deserves it.

His brother and fellow fishermen help him cast nets all night. Nothing.

Jesus arrives on the shore of the lake in the morning following an entire night of desperate, useless fishing. See what happens.

At Jesus’ word, he lets his nets down one more time.

And his boat almost sinks for how many fish are in his nets.

Jesus watches in pure delight as 5 grown fishermen splash and scream for joy because their desperate need has been met by the Lamb of God.

This God whom Simon has been avoiding out of shame and fear came to him in his moment of need and loved him like no one else has, unconditionally and overabundantly.

He didn’t expect it. He didn’t think he deserved it. He as much as said he didn’t need a Lamb. He’s broken so many rules of the religion and done much that he knows is wrong.

If God is who Simon had expected Him to be, angry and judgmental and only rewarding of those who always “do” good, Jesus would have walked right past him without a second glance.

He doesn’t.

Jesus loves Simon so much, and that love is captured in this scene in such a raw and beautiful way.

smiling jesus

This kind, beautiful, compassionate, humorous Jesus is taking people by surprise. It’s both beautiful and sad all at once.

Our world and our perspective are so broken that we are truly taken by surprise when the Man who literally came to earth to die an excruciating death that we might be saved actually loves us

To see this truth of a loving, real-life Jesus played out on screen the way it is portrayed in The Chosen is shocking people, many of them Christians.

As for non-Christians, this is probably a new version of Jesus to you too.

What happened to that really solemn, super “holy” guy? Where’s the Jesus who is constantly put out by the disciples’ failings? What happened to that angry God who hates you because you are sinful? Whatever happened to earning your rewards, your favor, your place in the world? Whatever happened to someone wanting something from you before they help out?

You know, like how our world works. Whatever happened to the Jesus who barely tolerates us?

What is it with this guy who just shows up on people’s worst days and completely changes everything with a heart so kind it almost frightens our abused, broken hearts?

I know, it's the most bizarre, most insane, most upside-down thing in the world.

Romans 5: 6-8

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (ESV)

I can hear potential accusations from some very confused people in the Church.

That’s not really Who Jesus is, this is Dallas Jenkin’s (creator of The Chosen) version of Jesus, a watered-down mushy version aimed at getting people in the door without actually convicting them of their sin! 

ragnarok is it though

I can hear the doubts of people who are suspicious of all things Christian.

He can’t be that good, you all are just making up a really shiny story so that we get sucked in by a lie! And then we’ll end up as miserable as you all are because your God is mean! 

its a trap gif

To the first group, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I reply to your doubts and criticisms with my testimony.

In 2016 I was less than a year out of being graduated from high school, and I was searching for the next thing in my life. Little did I know that my world was also about to fall apart dramatically and everything I thought I could count on would be turned upside down.

It was at this time that my need to know if God was more began to burn to a point where I couldn’t ignore it anymore. I couldn’t bury it for fear that I would be disappointed.

That’s what had held me back all of these years, fear that God would be just as miserable as I thought He might be. Fear that the loving God I hoped for would just be another instance of my unrealistic idealism. And if that was the case, would I give up?

Perhaps it was because I was already asking a lot of new questions as a green adult that there was a new space for God to move in my life.

I believe He knew it was time, and I was ready.

One day I saw a documentary called Finger of God. It was about God and His heart for us, His Created Ones.

I saw things that blew my mind. I saw people being touched by a love so radical, so pure, so joyful, so unearthly that it changed the entire course of their future in a moment. I saw people being healed, inside and out. I saw people tasting what I had tasted the moment I had asked Jesus into my heart.

Radical, unearthly joy and a love so powerful that you can literally feel the warmth of on your skin.

As I write this it is a shiny new year, 2020. In the four years that I have lived in between that day in 2016 and now, I have walked the hardest, darkest, most shattering days of my life. 

And God has never been so real, so good, or so full of love. 

Logic says that if someone is going to fall away from God, it would be when the worst of life and people smack us in the gut and leave us bleeding out. We see this happen all the time. And we know the questions that get asked,

God, if You really are good then where are You? What happened? Why did You let me down?

But we are talking about human logic here, human logic based upon broken perspective and limited experience. God logic works differently, He goes beyond what we expect and loves us more than we know what to do with. He comes bursting into our worst moments in surprising ways. He doesn’t base His decisions upon a small window of experiences or choices, but rather upon His never-changing Heart for us.

I got desperate and curious enough to reach, and this is what happened.

I reached for the more of God, and He was RIGHT THERE! He always has been and He will never leave. Each day has just been another step into a relationship with Someone so sweet, so kind, so generous, so uncondi

Jesus was God on Earth, and He only did what He saw His Father (God) doing. He didn’t walk in His own agenda, He walked in His Father’s will. (John 5)

So to those who fear the Jesus portrayed in The Chosen, this is what I have to say to you.

The Chosen does not scare me because I already recognize the Jesus I see portrayed here.

I know this guy! I see the Heart of God that I have been getting to know apart from this show for the past 4 years!

In 2016 The Chosen was just a twinkle in God’s eye and Dallas Jenkins hadn’t even crossed paths with the idea yet. I cannot blame the Jesus I know on Dallas or anyone else involved with the show, because I have already met Him in my own life.

Let me clarify, The Chosen is not meant to be a replacement for Scripture. The creators of the show have said this repeatedly. The stories told in The Chosen, the miracles shown are 100% true. The characters were real people that even secular authorities will confirm existed.

Some of the arrangement of these stories and the fleshing out of these characters has been worked with and adjusted by a team of people to create a watchable show.

But I recognize the fingerprints.

There are more than just men and women working on this show, I believe that God’s Hand and Heart are woven into it as well. I think God is tired of seeing His children fear Him. I think He’s tired of seeing the lost people in the world only view Him through lies. His heart is bursting with love for us and by its very nature Love needs somewhere to go and someone to touch.

It's time to fall in love with the truth of Jesus. It's time.

Now, to the second group, my brothers and sisters of the human race who are not Christians.

I get it, there are a ton of really mean and really unhappy Christians out there. There have been so many instances of cruelty, harshness, and hurt in the Church. I get it, I have been touched by it myself. But to you, this is what I want to say.

So many Christians do not understand their own Father's love and heart, and that makes them miserable because they live out lies instead of truth.

Having worked with children in professional settings before, I can attest to the truth of this statement.

The children who are more confident in their parents’ love and their own identity in their family are far calmer, more secure, and less easily given to offence. They are far easier to get along with and they have a greater trust for authority. Often they take direction better and are teachable. They are more likely to treat those around them with kindness even if the person is different from them. While not perfect, they stand apart as someone enjoyable to be around.

The children who feel less confident in their parents’ love and their place are either very shy and insecure or very loud and insecure. Their feelings can be easily hurt, they are often harder to manage, and they expend a lot of energy trying to be admired or at the very least noticed. It’s harder for them to trust and harder to get them to respond to instruction or discipline. They can be mean very quickly and form fast grudges. These children, while every bit as precious as the first type of child, require a lot more energy and patience to be around.

There have been thousands of people throughout the history of the Church who have never understood their own Father’s love for them.

Therefore, they are miserable, and they often spread that misery to others.

That’s why. And on top of that, just know this, Christians aren’t perfect.

I, a Christian, make mistakes. I make choices that are wrong, sometimes consciously, just like anyone else. The difference is that because of Jesus inside of me, I am counted as righteous in God’s eyes and He looks on Jesus’ sacrifice of blood on my behalf, not on my shortcomings.

There is a whole array of characters shown in The Chosen that represent each one of us where we are at right now, Christian or not. We have only begun to meet them, and over more seasons (8 Seasons are planned) even more beautiful characters and more incredible stories will be shown.

As a summary for Season 1, this is the message I hope to convey to those reading this review.

If God isn't for us than what hope is there_ If you can't trust the God Who made you to love, I mean REALLY love you, who can you trust_ If God is only confined to what we tiny humans can explain, is He rea (1)

Each one of the characters represented by the above questions finds their answer.

And it’s the same answer I myself have found.

The answer is, and always has been, a Person. His name is Jesus, Son of God and Savior of the World.

Yeah, I know, it’s crazy different. Different from what we have known, what we have heard, and often what we have experienced. But to quote an awesome line in Episode 7: Invitations.

Get used to different.

Friend, whether you are already a Christian, or at least brave enough to read this whole article #youareawesome, this is what I want you to walk away with.

You do not have to be afraid of God.

You do not have to be afraid of His Son Jesus.

Love has come, and His name is Jesus.

The Chosen has created a beautiful open door for people all over the world to step into an introduction to get to know the beautiful, radically loving heart of Jesus our Savior and of our Father God.

God is already using The Chosen powerfully to reach people in some of the darkest places and in every country in the world.

People in Iran who have lived a life without hope are watching it. People in China living through the coronavirus are watching it. People living in the US who have everything and yet nothing are having their hearts broken open by Love.

God is the one on the move, but I believe that The Chosen is a beautiful vessel that He is using to bring forth His plans in the earth. I recommend it to anyone, regardless of your background.

If you want to give the first episode a watch it is completely free on The Chosen‘s YouTube channel.

You can follow The Chosen on:

Facebook

Instagram

YouTube

And you can download TheChosenApp for FREE to watch all 8 episodes of Season 1.

TheChosenApp on GooglePlay! 

TheChosenApp on The App Store!

Also, check out the gorgeous soundtrack on Spotify! This soundtrack has already made my “you’re obsessed with it what is your problem” list made for me by Spotify. I hope you enjoy it too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pixar Spark Shorts – “Smash and Grab” Awesome Things You Didn’t Know Were on Disney+

Everyone had their own reasons for getting excited about the arrival of Disney+.

The old favorites released from the mysterious “vault” such as classic Princess movies like Sleeping Beauty and Snow White.

Fan-favorite Disney Channel shows That’s So Raven, Lizzie McGuire, and The Suite Life of Zack and Cody. Can I admit that I watched all of the seasons of The Suite Life On Deck without seeing The Suite Life first?

New favorites such as the over-the-top successful AladdinI can confirm that the movie is at least as good the 6-7th time you see it as it the first time.

And then the pièce de ré·sis·tance, the first original live-action Star Wars series The MandalorianA show that has exceeded our expectations and is worth every bit of hype it was given.

There are a few gems on Disney+ that I wanted to spotlight for those looking for something that they may not have heard of before, but would definitely enjoy.

Spark Shorts: Smash and Grab

spark shorts

If you have not checked out Pixar’s section of Spark Shorts, you must do so immediately. Pixar more than any other studio has taught us that compelling stories with deep messages can be told in less than 10 minutes but remain in our memories forever.

Smash and Grab : After years of toiling away inside the engine room of a towering locomotive, two antiquated robots will risk everything for freedom and for each other.

smash and grab

This short is one of the best shorts I have ever seen in my life.

In less than 10 minutes we are introduced to a beautiful and complex dystopian robot society where some robots live in freedom and luxury while others are enslaved.

A deep connection of love and brotherhood is made apparent between our two main characters. They have been enslaved together, and they will be free together, or they will die trying.

big robot s and g

The personalities of these robots are communicated through simple eye-shape changes, robot sounds, gestures, and movement. You understand who these characters are, what motivates them, and what they mean to each other without a single word being spoken.

little robot s and g

You fall in love so fast with these characters that you immediately feel the fear when they are put into peril by their decision to reach for freedom. The fear they feel for each other is worse than the fear they have for themselves.

Y’all, there have been dozens of movies that cost millions of dollars who couldn’t accomplish in 2+ hours what this one short is able to accomplish in 7 minutes.

weapon robots s and g

An entire world/society is clearly communicated, injustice is seen for what it is and a decision is made to do something about it. Two distinct personalities are established as well as their connection and meaning to each other. These characters step out of their comfort zone and all that they have known to reach for something better, no matter the cost. They have a complete and full character arc in 7 minutes time.

And all of this is communicated without a single word being spoken. The world, a problem, main characters, decisions, a battle, sacrifice, love, endurance, and the ending?

I’ll let you watch the short to find out what happens. It’s glorious.

Plus, just check out how gorgeous this world is. The colors, the textures, the lighting! The artistry is purely stunning and takes its place on the stage of excellence right alongside the storytelling and music.

s and g concept

s & g concept art

train sm and gr

Everyone involved in creating this short should be dang proud of themselves.

Check it out today on Disney+, Smash and Grab! 

 

Fatherhood Feature: The Mandalorian

Fatherhood is such an important topic in today’s culture.

It always has been. Thousands of children grow up every year without fathers, absent or neglectful fathers, and even abusive ones. Every single one of us has a need for a dad literally built into the way we develop and function.

When someone is faced with a lack of a good father it definitely creates many extra layers of struggle.

There are thousands of incredible single moms out there who are doing both the job of dad and mom, they deserve all the praise and recognition they can get, and I look forward to writing a series celebrating mothers as well.

We are also blessed with some pretty amazing kick-butt dads who remind us those good men do exist and we should be celebrating the guys who are giving it their all to be good dads.

Whenever I see an example of a great dad on screen I sit up straighter and take notice. I want to highlight a few of the best I have seen on the big and small screen.

The Mandalorian

the mando single dad

Disney+’s The Mandalorian was already on track to become a success before the world ever knew that Baby Yoda existed.

Jon Favreau made a brilliant move when he chose to add a baby and an adoptive relationship to this series.

At first glance, it merely looked like a shiny shoot-em-up about a Mandalorian warrior. Cool, but not exactly deep.

What began as really cool became unbelievable overnight!

Baby Yoda has become the heart of the series, and his introduction turned the Mandalorian into a character with a full range of emotions and deeply personal motivations that we can all connect with.

baby yoda

What Makes the Mando a Great Dad?

The biggest thing of all…sacrifice.

the mandalorian chapter 3.png

 

He lost his complete freedom to go wherever he wanted and do whatever he wished.

He lost his career and Guild membership.

He became enemies with multiple dangerous groups of people.

He has committed to an entire life on the run. As was evidenced by Chapter 4, stopping and settling down with a family doesn’t appear to be in the cards for Mando or his new son.

He has no idea what the lifespan of this child is or how long Baby will need him. 50 years old…still a baby who toddles and cannot yet speak. That’s some serious commitment.

He takes on a responsibility to care for someone that could well cost him his life.

Parents sacrifice for their children in countless ways every single day.

To be a parent is to lay your life down daily for someone else who is smaller and more vulnerable, who may not ever be able to repay you.

It’s a selfless, sacrificial kind of love.

It’s a 24/7 job that never lets up, especially if you are a single parent and, oh yeah, people are trying to kill you AND your kid!

The Mando has shown this kind of selfless love for a child who isn’t even his own blood. Not even his own species!

The Mandalorian is giving a beautiful place of honor to adoptive/foster relationships, fatherhood, and single parenting. And it’s stinkin’ awesome.

mando holding baby yoda cool

Mando on his own is really just another warrior with a bag of skills and shiny armor.

Mando as a father putting himself on the line for a tiny little Person?

That’s about as macho and cool as it gets!

Fatherhood is one of the most masculine and awesome things in this world, and I could not be more pleased that Mr. Favreau chose to make the theme of fatherhood the beating heart of a show that is one of the most breathtaking things I have ever seen on screen.

For all of the horror, violence, and evil that is created and consumed by millions of people, it’s really nice to enjoy a show that gives honor to that which is truly honorable.

Here’s a shout-out to all of the awesome dads, step-dads, foster dads, adoptive dads, single-dads, grandpas, surrogate dads, teachers, mentors, coaches, pastors, big brothers, uncles, friends, and guys who are stepping up to the plate and raising the precious people that are our future. You guys are MVPs and we love you.

And I’d say you are in good company…

mando and yoda

The Rise of Skywalker Trailer – 9 Things

Did you all catch The Rise of Skywalker trailer during the football game tonight?

So, our final trailer leading up to the movie premiere in December. In honor of it being the 9th and final movie in the Skywalker Saga, here are 9 things I noticed about it – for better or worse.

1. Finn…and Rey?

I’ve not been shy about how much I want Finn and Rey together. Their immediate connection and relationship in The Force Awakens are one of the things that made me fall in love with the movie instantly.

They are two broken people who have come together and are helping each other heal. Rey gives Finn something to believe in, Finn is the first person who comes back for Rey in her entire life – showing her that she is indeed valued and loved.

finn

The first voice we hear in this trailer is Finn’s.

I am so glad, I felt like Finn took a bit more of a backseat in The Last Jedi and FinnRey wasn’t even a feature of that movie at all! I deeply missed their dynamic of being together, but that ending hug we got on Crait was a huge indicator that none of the love between them had grown cold.

Not only are all of our characters back together, but I get the feeling that we will get to see once again that Finn and Rey dynamic that we fell in love with from Moment 1. I can’t help but believe Finn’s stirring line,

It’s an instinct, a feeling. The Force brought us together.

is likely aimed at none other than Rey. He’s speaking with a softer tone, as you might if you were talking to just one person or perhaps a small group of people.

Whether this line is aimed at Rey or not, it’s a beautiful testimony to the entire heart of this Saga as well as how far Finn has come as a character.

He’s a believer, 100%. 

reyyyy

Excuse the blurry image, but even with the lower image quality, it’s not hard to read what Finn is saying here (plus you can hear it in the trailer). This image is almost an exact copy of his face and body language in The Force Awakens when Kylo takes off in his ship with a kidnapped Rey. Finn is screaming her name in desperation.

Given that this appears to be the same place we have seen Kylo and Rey clashing in a lightsaber duel, I imagine whatever follows this image is pretty dramatic. #bringiton

This character wears his heart on his sleeve, and I love him for it.

Finn and Rey are right back where they belong – together.

2. The Ghost

the ghost

As a big Star Wars Rebels fan, I would be remiss if I didn’t give this a shoutout – The Ghost is actually flying directly to the back right of The Falcon. This is huge for the Rebels’ storyline!

Ezra disappeared right at the beginning of the Original Trilogy timeline. It’s 30+ years later, so he would be in his late 40s. Other characters will be even older.

Is this a much older Hera still flying her ship with the Resistance? She’s just the type of warrior to stay in the fight for the long haul.

Is it her son flying his mother’s famous ship? Did Sabine and Ahsoka find Ezra like he asked and are they the ones piloting the ship????

It’s a really, really big reveal, and I’ll just bet we get Dave Filoni to weigh in on it before long.

3. This Movie Is Beyond Gorgeous

Would you just take a moment to soak in the number of textures, landscapes, colors, and movement of this movie??? There are about 3 different things happening in this image below.

gorgeous shot

This iceberg planet is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in Star Wars.

iceberg star wars

Even the “getaway” device is filled with bright, colorful yellow powder! It’s almost like the filmmakers are celebrating the joy that is this Star Wars story all throughout this movie!

color explosion

4. C3PO

I think Anthony Daniels is about as adorable as they come – C3PO? Not so much.

3po

I’ve never been a huge 3PO fan (although I do have a pair of 3PO socks that I love). He always seemed to be bumbling his way through situations (or slowing everyone down) while R2D2 did the actual heavy lifting.

Seriously, if R2D2 had been taken out a long time ago the Emperor would still be ruling and every one of the heroes would have died.

But over time I have come to appreciate this incredibly “British” droid. He was made to be a human companion and helper, far more suited for aiding a senator (as he does Padme Amidala in The Clone Wars) than he is for fighting in a scrappy Rebellion.

But he’s made it this far, he’s done his best, and it would appear in this trailer that our old and sometimes annoying Gold Friend may be saying his final goodbye.

And I cried. Dadgum it, 3PO! I. CRIED! Han SOLO would have cried at that! #manytissueswillbeharmedintheviewingofthismovie

bye 3po

5. The People of the Resistance

One thing I deeply appreciated about The Last Jedi is there were scenes with “background” characters such as Paige Tico’s brave sacrifice that made sideline characters feel like the feature character for their moment. 

Rogue One was an entire movie made about the “little people”, the behind-the-scenes heroes who lived, loved, fought, and died for this cause of freedom. They are the foundation our bigger heroes stand upon, without them none of this exists.

It is my great hope that in this movie that theme will be continued.

Rebellions are built on hope…

And they are built on beautiful, normal people who stepped up and said, “Count me in.”

dom and rose

Shoutout to whoever gave Rose this fantastic new hair look (I couldn’t stand her old one even though I liked her). Also, it looks like we have Billie Lourde’s character as well as Dominic Monaghan’s character shown in the background. I am anticipating awesome things!

6. Palpatine Is STILL Being A Huge Drama Queen

creepy throne

Isn’t this throne just a bit…extra?

Not really. For all his evilness, Palpatine has a work ethic even I have to respect. Plus he’s been sitting in the shadows somewhere, scheming and planning for 30+ years. A guy’s gotta have a hobby.

But what’s his angle here? I suspect he’s interested in bringing Rey and Kylo together, this line seems to point to that idea,

Your coming together is your undoing…

Did you notice that it appears both Rey and Kylo are searching for something in the shell of this ancient Death Star? What are they hoping to find?

rey and kylo death star

 

It also appears that Rey and Kylo have laid their differences aside for a moment to join forces to destroy the Emperor? 

kylo and rey

Hmm, given that this creepy little old man has the stamina of a cockroach with a rotten life insurance policy, I find his easy demise hard to believe.

This floating chair throne is giving me major Thinker vibes (Season 4 of The Flash). The dark stillness of the room and the slow floating towards Rey is somehow the creepiest thing ever and her body language says that she agrees 100%.

rey and palp

I don’t know what Palpatine’s game plan is, but he is fascinating and an extremely cunning villain, so a final takedown of this menace will be beyond satisfying.

It’s time. Your day has come, Palpatine. We will get the last cackle.

7. Poe Dameron and The Spark

chewie, poe, finn

We’re not alone, good people will fight if we lead them.

The purpose and meaning of the Rebellion/Resistance have never been put into words and ideas more clearly than in the Sequel Trilogy. Despite the huge setbacks of the Original Trilogy, the numbers have never been lower for the heroes than they were at the end of of The Last Jedi.

And yet, they flew away from Crait with their shattered band of 7.5 people with a hope burning in their hearts because they knew the truth.

poe dameron hope

Star Wars may be a fictional world, but it is based upon reality. There is a gem here that we all need to hold onto.

Friends, we aren’t alone! Good people will fight if we lead them! So many people in this world are just waiting for someone to be brave enough and step up and say, “Let’s do this.”

That potential is inside all of us, regardless of the odds. We love Star Wars because it reminds us that no shadow, no Empire, no First Order can keep us from standing up and fighting back…and winning.

Light will always win over Dark, Light has the victory. The very music of this trailer is the music generations of us have been in love with for decades, but it has never sounded more hopeful than it does in this movie.

8. Rey And Her Identity

rey they know me

Everyone keeps telling me they know me, but no one does.

I do.

Seriously, Kylo? Are we still on this?

One of my absolute favorite things about Rey is that she doesn’t stay under a Lie for long.

It’s an old and tired song, but an effective one.

I know who you are…and it totally fits my evil agenda for you to believe everything I tell you.

Palpatine did it to Anakin. Maul tried to do it to Ezra. Palpatine tried to do it to Luke. Kylo tried to do it to Rey.

Our identity is everything. If we don’t know who we are then we get nowhere. We need to know who we are, why we are here, and where we belong.

Rey’s background makes her terribly vulnerable in this area, and Kylo tried to prey upon this vulnerability in The Last Jedi.

You come from nothing, you’re nothing…

…but not to me.

He tried desperately to get Rey to place her entire sense of purpose and value in him.

kylo

And she said no.

Rey always says no.

Confronting fear, it’s the destiny of a Jedi.

Rey’s biggest fear is that she is worthless. Everyone in her entire world until BB-8 and Finn arrived cemented the Lie that she was the dirt beneath people’s feet.

But the fire, the spirit inside of her knows better. 

And rather than running from this fear, rather than hiding from the world and her life, she has embraced it and jumped in with both feet.

I am worth something. I do have a purpose. I can make a difference. I won’t give up. I don’t have to believe what anyone says. 

I know who I am…

Rey is can be a role model to all of us. She’s stunningly beautiful in her vulnerable and confident humanity.

force with you always

9. So. Much. Joy.

Can you feel it?

Can you hear it?

The heartbeat of hope. And hope and joy often hold hands.

Star Wars has always been about hope. But joy has not always been present. We’ve seen beautiful moments of celebration.

Han and Luke returning to Leia after they destroy the Death Star.

The triumphant parade in The Phantom Menace.

The bonfire and dance in the Ewok Village.

finn woo yeah falcon

But we have had some pretty horrible lows.

“You were my brother, Anakin, I loved you.”

Han’s death.

Losing Caleb Dume.

Ahsoka leaving the Jedi Order.

Luke’s final kiss to his sister.

We have faced devastating grief in this story.

But the way this trailer made me feel?

Just look at the characters, look at their faces.

smiling at chewbacca

Han used to look at Chewie like that. #iamfeelingsomanythings

They are still fighting for freedom, for survival. They still might die.

lando and chewie

But they are doing it together.

fighting together

They are going to enjoy the ride for however long it lasts. They are going to celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

They are going to live to the fullest in every moment.

whoooo

They are going to find strength in each other.

leia and rey

And they are going to charge into the battle strengthened by the truth of what they believe in.

riding horses

The gift that Star Wars has been to the world is immeasurable. The joy, the connection, the hope, and the delight it has brought people is beautiful.

Star Wars is timeless because it is the story of us, told in a galaxy far far away.

I love it. I am so excited. I’ll see you all in the theaters.

leia and rey 2

I can hardly wait for December to arrive, but in the meantime, we have a nice little consolation prize in The Mandalorian that will be available on Disney + November 12th. 

Other articles you might enjoy…

Star Wars: Every Story in the Galaxy

Star Wars Resistance: 10 Reasons Every Star Wars Fan Needs To See It

Solo: A Star Wars Story

The Flash: Villains Ranked

Season 6 premiere of the popular DC show The Flash airs Tuesday, October 8th on The CW at 8/7c.

Barry Allen is the definition of what it means to be a hero. He is selfless, brave, loving, and redemptive. Barry Allen strikes a beautiful balance of being an imperfect human who continues to save the day over and over again by doing what is right.

Barry AllenIn storytelling, a good balance must be struck between the light and the dark. The Flash has had varied success in creating its Big Bads, and today I am going to rank them from Best Villain to Worst Villain.

The Reverse Flash

The electrifying villain of Season 1 has continued to dominate in all of the following seasons as the monster who is always hiding under the bed, just waiting for a chance to come out and wreak havoc again!

As far as origin stories go, I personally find Eobard’s “I could never be you so I became the reverse a pretty lame excuse for villainy. Then again, whoever said villains had to come up with decent excuses to be legitimate? Because Thawne is without a doubt the most solid villain to ever sully Central City.

Savitar

Every villain is meant to be either a reflection or warped version of Barry Allen himself. Savitar was actually a time remnant of Barry Allen, which made his intention to murder the love of Barry’s life (Iris) right in front of him seem even more twisted and horrific.

Season 1 has been my favorite season thus far but I have to say, Season 3 brought it when it came to terror! The entire Season felt like this horrible ticking clock that led to impending doom. Every episode bringing us a little closer to the edge of a cliff we could not escape from.

Savitar felt unbeatable, supernatural, and that made him an A+ villain in my opinion.

Season 3 really brought Barry full circle in the arc that he began with during Season 1,  and it took someone as close as himself threatening to take away the person Barry holds most dear to reach that point. The character work of this season was phenomenal and heartbreaking.

FYI – I am to this day still not over losing HR.

The Thinker

Season 4 was not my favorite, but no one can deny that DeVoe was a force to be reckoned with. He challenged Barry and Team Flash in a way that no speedster ever could. He began as an almost likable person with his beautiful house and supposedly “happy” marriage to his wife – a strange comparison to the unity and strength of Iris and Barry’s now marriage. Two couples going head to head, it was new take on the good vs. evil battle.

But as the season went on we saw just how rotten DeVoe was from the inside out. How meticulously he had planned everything. DeVoe was disgustingly arrogant and truly felt unbeatable! While his arrogance annoyed the heck out of me, it was nice to have a villain that was so hard to thwart (unlike the villain of Season 5).

I have to take issue with Barry’s “no-kill” rule here (and a few other places). While I would not want to rush to flip the switch on anyone, Barry literally begged Ralph not to kill DeVoe when they had the upper hand for the first time all season! At that moment, it was the only way DeVoe would have been defeated. Considering that DeVoe intended to alter the world and had no issue killing or controlling anyone (killing pregnant women, drugging his wife, etc), I don’t know,  Barry, I think we have a Hitler situation here.

It was a great triumph to me that love, a petty emotion DeVoe had scoffed at, was the chief reason he was defeated. The mind is great, the heart is greater!

Zoom

Zoom had a cool villain appeal. His very unpredictability made him a severely uncomfortable villain to have around. I don’t know how Team Flash could sit and drink coffee when they knew this creep could just zip in and rip them to pieces at the drop of a hat.

And yet, he fell somewhat short of his potential. He felt more like a deranged toddler running around and causing chaos just because he wanted to. He could have done so much more damage. While this definitely qualifies as “villainish” behavior, in comparison to villains like DeVoe and The Reverse Flash whose plans have plans, Zoom did not make the grade.

True, he was going to destroy the multiverse, but it was merely so he could be the fastest man in the universe. A rather childish ambition to the villain who had never grown up. Understandable, but the success/fear factor was outdone by the Master Planners like DeVoe/Reverse Flash and terrifying monsters like Savitar.

Cicada

Season 5 was intriguing with the new angle of Barry and Iris spending the entire season with their adult daughter. I am a sucker for a parent/child storyline, especially when the parents are almost the same age as their children. Barry has fatherhood potential written all over him, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the West-Allen family be together even if Nora could ruin a good thing in about five minutes.

But Cicada? Why was Cicada considered a strong enough Big Bad for an entire season of The Flash? The answer did not come until the true villain, The Reverse Flash, entered the picture. His scenes always upstaged Orlin or Grace Dwyers’ scenes, he was the truly villainous force this season, Dwyer barely felt like a sideshow.

Cicada could have been removed from circulation so many times and Team Flash was “foiled” in the most ridiculous ways. I get that we are living in a pretend world where mind-control gorillas and professor sharks are a thing, but that does not mean the believability in writing needs to be sloppy. It was horribly sloppy this season, and Cicada failed to strike fear in me at all.

Without a doubt, the King of Flash Big Bads is The Reverse Flash and considering that he started us off on this journey, perhaps that is only fair.

bloodwork

Bloodwork aka Dr. Ramsey Rosso is the new Big Bad for Season 6.

First impressions?

He looks as if he has potential. He’s not a speedster so clearly, the answer will not be just run faster. This is not just a mind or a speed game, it’s a new game altogether.

He’s a peer to Caitlin Snow (can this girl catch a break with anyone outside of Team Flash?), making him a known person to the team pre-villain years. Will he use this familiarity to his advantage?

His powers will be incredibly unique and gross.

He seems suave and self-assured without the opulent arrogance of DeVoe or the sneering attitude of Eobard Thawne. A calm villain is sometimes the most frightening.

I get a chilled feeling that he truly believes himself to be the hero of this story and those types always scare me the most. A villain with conviction who believes themselves to be the hero will go farther, justify more, and approach the battle in ways lesser villains will not. I fully anticipate all of that from Bloodwork.

So, I have ranked The Flash villains from best to worst. Do you agree with the rankings? What is your take on Bloodwork and the direction for Season 6? What will happen to Barry Allen during Crisis On Infinite Earths?